Cycling is a favorite sport of mine. I am no pro and far from becoming one; but for sure I can hold my own. Like most that love the sport or find it an effective means of transportation or recreation, there’s always more to learn; skills to master, as well as tips and techniques that will make your experience safer and more enjoyable. One of the most important things to keep in mind is surface: cycling on paved roads is not the same as cycling on dirt roads.
Just because you’ve mastered the skills on paved roads doesn’t mean you’re equipped with the same level of expertise for cycling on dirt roads. Regardless, there are no exceptions, cycling posses some inherent risks, moreover the average cyclist is not familiar with the rules of the road, so if you are serious about becoming a better cyclist, below are 16 tips and techniques that may be of benefit to you.
Tips and Techniques
Take control of your bike and body
Make sure your bicycle is in good working condition and is equipped with reflectors and light especially for riding at nights (personally I don’t recommend riding at nights unless participating in an event).
- Depending on where you live, traffic laws differ. Know the traffic laws as they apply to pedestrian crosswalks, railroad crossings, sidewalks, school buses and signals: such as arm signals.
- Wear proper attire or avoid wearing baggy clothes that is likely to get caught in the spokes or other areas of the bicycle. Always wear a safety helmet to protect your head.
- Whether you’re learning to ride or practicing a technique, grass surface is best and will lessen or most likely prevent injuries.
- Learn to relax by keeping your arms and legs free of tension (moreover, your entire body) this will improve your balance and soften the effects of pressure on your limbs. In addition, regular aerobics exercise will improve your breathing as well as stretching and jumping exercises will help you loosen-up before hitting the road.
- Balancing is not just a matter of skillfully positioning yourself to keep your bicycle in motion and prevent falls or avoid accidents. You and your bicycle should become one unit by learning to adjust and position your weight accordingly. Both working in harmony will give you an advantage especially if you’re in a race. Once this is achieved you’ll enjoy cycling more than you ever did.
- A very simple, yet effective technique for mastering balancing is track-stand. This technique involves positioning your crank arms horizontally on the handlebar. As soon as you come to a halt or stop-- turn the front wheel slightly to the right or left and apply just sufficient pressure to keep yourself from rolling backwards. Practice riding in narrow areas will also improve balance.
- The climatic conditions and length of time you ride your bike can increasingly affect traction; for example: if the road surface is warm or hot traction will decrease, however, this can be controlled easily on paved surfaces. Dirt roads are not so compliant the dirt or gravel may move under your tires, and can cause your bicycle to skid.
- Improve Traction Climbing: Brace forward in your saddle so that sufficient weight is distributed to the front wheel to maintain alignment. Your weight should be proportionately applied by bending at the waist so that your rear tire does not spin.
- Improve Traction Descent: When descending and especially on steep descents rise slightly and position yourself behind the saddle, keeping your pedals in a horizontal position. Use both front and rear brakes and do not apply them suddenly.
- When riding in groups or at paced distances, do not use your front bakes. Your front brakes slow you down quicker. Applying your rear brakes will slow you down gradually and most likely alert those behind you that you’re reducing speed or about to stop.
- Decelerating too hard and fast can throw you over the handle bars if you apply your breaks aggressively. Learn to apply your breaks gently.
- Start braking before you get to a turn. Adjusting your speed in a timely manner allows for a safe and smooth turn. You are likely to crash if you start breaking while turning--- your bicycle is leaning and at the same time the front wheel is angled.
- Crashing is inevitable so learn how to minimize or prevent damage to your limbs and head. Don’t brace against impact, instead roll when you land without extending your limbs.
- Do not ride through large bodies of water, what appears safe, could be deep and dangerous.
- Look in the direction you want to go, your bicycle tend to follow the direction in which you’re looking. Practice using your peripheral vision which allows you to see a number of objects without focusing on them. As a kid I saw my friend ride head-on into a concrete wall as the chain loosened and her focus shifted in that direction. Thank the lord she was not seriously injured, however, the bicycle was badly damaged.
If you really want to advance quickly, join a bicycling club, dedicate time to reading about the sport, and practice, practice. Watch the pros on tour at major events such as the Tour De France, Giro d’ Italia, and Vuelta a’ Espana, and remember take control of your bike, and body.
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